YOUNGSTOWN - Education was the theme of the afternoon as Walter "Buzz" Pishkur, former president of Aqua Ohio and Regional Chamber board member, served as the keynote speaker at the chamber's Youngstown Ohio Utica Natural Gas Series luncheon in Youngstown.
Pishkur, now the director of water utilities for the city of Arlington, Texas, was joined by Jim Parajon, Arlington's director of community development and planning, as well as Washington County, Pa., Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Kotula to comprise a panel that stressed the importance of educating the public on misinformation surrounding the shale drilling industry.
Pishkur has held his position in Arlington for about a year and described himself as neither a supporter nor an opponent of the industry.
There are 56 well sites within the 99 square miles of Arlington, and the natural gas drilling there began in the early 2000s, Parajon said. The key is transparency when dealing with the public, he said.
"One of the things we learned over the last 10 years is that the more transparent you are, the less assumptions people make about what goes on within their neighborhood," Parajon said.
Parajon said he uses public forums to provide the community with the same information that city officials use to make decisions regarding the city's involvement with the industry.
Kotula shared his experience working with the shale industry as the president of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce. Washington County has seen 971 wells drilled since 2005, and has undergone a major transformation in recent years from an area driven by the steel and coal industries to one powered by natural gas and other emerging technologies.
Sticking with the theme of the afternoon, Kotula stressed, "Natural gas means jobs, it means new business opportunities for our citizens and it has really helped our county grow. The main thing (as the process in the Mahoning Valley progresses) is to educate, educate and educate.
"Educate yourself, educate your neighbors and your business community on the opportunities, because there is a lot of false information out there from people who do not understand the process."
The YOUNG Series was started over three years ago in conjunction with the YOUNG Conference as an effort to highlight aspects of the shale drilling industry.